Indonesia Evacuates Villagers as Volcano Erupts on Java Island

JAKARTA, Dec 4 (Reuters) – A volcano in Indonesia erupted on Sunday, spewing an ash cloud 15 kilometers away and forcing the evacuation of nearly 2,000 people, officials said. Island of Java.

There were no immediate reports of casualties from the Semeru eruption and Indonesia’s transport ministry said there was no impact on air travel, but two regional airports had been alerted.

“Most of the roads have been closed since this morning and now it’s raining volcanic ash that has obscured the view of the mountain,” community volunteer Bayu Deni Albianto told Reuters by phone from near the volcano.

Semeru, the highest mountain in Java, erupted last year, killing more than 50 people and displacing thousands.

Indonesia’s Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) said 1,979 people had been moved to 11 shelters and officials distributed masks to residents. The explosion began at 2:46 am (1946 GMT Saturday) and rescue, search and evacuation efforts were underway.

Ash from the volcano reached a height of 50,000 feet (15 km), Japan’s Meteorological Agency said, the first warning that the volcano could trigger a tsunami. It later ruled that it was not.

More than 300 people were killed last month following a series of earthquakes in west Java, about 640 km (400 miles) east of the capital, Jakarta.

Indonesia’s Center for Volcanic and Geological Hazard Mitigation, PVMBG, raised the level of volcanic activity to the highest level and warned residents not to approach 8 km (5 mi) from the epicenter of Semaru.

Hot ash clouds drifted nearly 12 miles (19 km) from the epicenter, it said.

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PVMBG chief Hendra Gunavan said that a larger volume of magma may have been generated compared to the volcano’s previous eruptions in 2021 and 2020, posing a greater risk to a larger area.

“Chemeru’s warm clouds can reach further and further into the habitable zone,” he said.

In a video sent to Reuters by police in the area, villagers could be seen walking away from the volcano’s slopes, some with items piled onto motorbikes. The damaged bridge was covered in volcanic ash.

With 142 volcanoes, Indonesia has the world’s largest population living near a volcano, with 8.6 million living within 10 km (6 mi) of one.

The devastating earthquake in West Java in late November had a magnitude of 5.6, but was shallow. A 6.1 earthquake struck at a deeper depth on Saturday, sending people running from buildings but causing no major damage or casualties.

Reporting by Stefano Suleiman and Angie Deo in Jakarta; Additional reporting by Tetsushi Kajimoto in Tokyo; Editing by William Mallard and Lincoln Feist

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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